Legal Framework for Electronic Signatures and Associated Matters (Amendment) Law of 2012”
The new law on electronic signatures amended the basic law of 2004 on electronic signatures, in order to further improve its effectiveness and for purposes of transposing EU Directive 1999/93/EC [Law 188(I)/2004].
New Section 4, regulating the legal effects of electronic signatures, provides that advanced electronic signatures which:
• are based on a qualified certificate,
• are created by accredited certification service providers, and
• are created by a secure-signature-creation-device,
are equal to handwritten signatures, both in substantive and procedural law, and are also admissible as evidence in legal proceedings. However, it is also provided that advanced electronic signatures that are based on a qualified certificate, but are created by non-accredited certification service providers, may be considered equal to handwritten signatures, only if they are verified by an authority prescribed in an Order issued by the Department of Electronic Communications. Furthermore, according to Section 4, an electronic signature is not denied legal effectiveness and admissibility as evidence in legal proceedings solely on the grounds that it is:
• in electronic form or
• not based upon a qualified certificate or
• not based upon a qualified certificate issued by an accredited certification-service-provider or
• not created by a secure signature-creation device.
Furthermore, the powers and responsibilities of the Department of Electronic Communications of the Ministry of Communications and Works, which is the competent authority for the implementation of the law, are now reinforced. In particular, the authority may now issue Orders regarding the implementation of the basic law, as well as the implementation of a regulation, decision or any other act of the European Union related to electronic signatures. The competent authority has also the power to impose an administrative fine in case of breach of the provisions of the law or any Regulations and/or Orders issued by virtue of it. An administrative fine may also be imposed in case of breach of the provisions of any Act of the EU on electronic signatures or in case of non-compliance with any conditions, requirements or restrictions related to any authorisation given. Also, the competent authority may now require information from any person, for purposes of better implementation of the law.
Finally, no person may be criminally prosecuted under the Law without the prior permission of the Attorney-General of the Republic.